The Night the KZV Armenian School Students Became Giants

BY SAKO SARKISSIAN

I write you today, on April 24th 2010, the morning after I had the pleasure of attending a brilliant theatrical performance called Veratarts at the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan  Armenian School.

From the fiery opening speech given by the school’s arts director, Noushig Mikayelian, to the moving monologue finale by 8th grader, Krikor Andonian, Friday April 23rd 2010 was truly a night to remember!

Rare is the theatrical show by an “amateur” production that leaves the audience with a sense of hope and pride that can only be experienced by an inspiring performance. Raw and uncut, yet there was nothing amateur about this night.

The story, written and directed by Noushig Mikayelian, starts off with an unexpected choice of music depicting a scene from a modern Armenian- American family, with the parents preparing for a night out with friends. As the married couple bicker over what to wear, and who they will be seen with that night, their two girls fight over a pair of shoes. All the while listening and reading his newspaper sits “Mouchegh dede” (played by Krikor Andonian). As this genocide survivor breaks up the fight between his two granddaughters, Lilit and Anna (played by Nayri Alajaji & Aida Geojayan) he starts to narrate his experiences growing up as a child in historic Armenia and recalls the horrific scenes of a genocide indelibly etched in his memory.

This theatrical – musical production is anything but typical. As the audience transitions back and forth between modern to historic times throughout the performance, the students brilliantly stay in character and you forget that you are watching a middle school performance.

The story line is so relevant and thought provoking to our Armenian-American lives, it left the audience of more than 300 teary eyed during some scenes and amused at others. Not an easy task given the somber mood of the subject matter.

As the young couple came back home a little tipsy from their dinner party, unknowing of the journey “Mouchegh dede” had taken their daughters, the couple argues over a business proposal offered to the husband that would move the family to Yerevan.

Armen (played by Michael Alayan) tells his wife, Garine (played by Lisa Geurkova):

“What are we doing here? We fight over material things; we talk about money and friends… who has what, and how much…we are never truly happy… I don’t feel I belong here anymore!”… (his wife implores) “Armen, you know I cannot live in Armenia!” Armen Answers: “Why? Why can’t we live in Armenia? Because there are problems there? What country does not have problems? Why do we have to go there when there are no problems? Why can’t we go there, start a life with our family, and help solve some of the problems?”

The internal conflict for me is the same question young couples discuss when deciding to send their kids to Armenian-American Schools or to traditional American Schools.

Last night, for me, that question was answered.

When you decide to send your child to a school such as KZV of San Francisco, you are not only giving them an opportunity at a fine Armenian-American education, you are also giving them an opportunity to inspire people.

Last night, that is exactly what these students did, they inspired their audience.

As I walked outside our familiar school, my nephew Shant (who played one of the “Fedayis”) called out to me. I went to greet him.

This was strange to me because normally Shant ignores me when his friends are around; I have come to accept that. Not tonight.

As I walked up to him, I noticed something different about Shant. He gave me a look as I congratulated him, hugged him, and told him I was proud of him. I didn’t have to, he was already proud of himself. I could see it in his eyes.

As a procession of the young actor/ students walked by, I congratulated them too. The usual downward cast of eyes when talking to a stranger was not so this night. They met my eyes, said “thank you”, smiled, and walked by with confidence.

Tonight they were not only students; tonight they were not only innocent, playful kids we know and love. For one night, these students became giants.

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